Word of Mind, Word of Mouth

Dog bite mars relaxing walk on Fiscalini Ranch

Special to The CambrianMay 23, 2014 

Did your mother ever chide you, “Wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident! You don’t want to be embarrassed!” A couple of weeks ago I was glad I was wearing any at all as an opportunity arose to prove it.

My dear friend and I were helping another friend out by walking her dog on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. Seeing as she was not sure how this muscled dog would behave around other dogs, it was on a short leash and we kept an eye out for loose animals. Seeing one romping the hill a good hundred feet or more ahead, I offered to find the owner and ask them to hold it while we passed.

The gentleman had his back to the dog and was on his cell phone (HE got service, obviously). Still about 15 feet or so away from him, I calmly asked him to hold his dog, which was now coming down the hill. He obviously didn’t hear me as he was still on his phone so I started to say it again when I realized his dog was crouched right in front of me baring its teeth.

Needless to say, I went into “protect” mode, so when it jumped at me I turned and it bit the side of my upper thigh. I hollered, naturally, and slowly backed away. Just as it was lunging again, the owner finally had put his cell phone away and grabbed it just before its teeth struck again.

“Your dog bit me!”

“No, she’s just being friendly!”

“Uh, no, she bit me!”

“No, she doesn’t do that! Did it break the skin?”

“I don’t know. The fabric isn’t ripped but it hurts like hell!”

“She didn’t bite you!”

I was so irritated I whipped down my capri pants right there on the trail.

A puncture and a large bruise were immediately visible. He finally was as shocked as I was (I believe both at the wound and that I’d strip in front of a stranger — he don’t know me, do he?) He rather lamely went on to apologize and blamed my hat, a purple straw, Chinese “coolie style.”

“Uh, people wear hats out here! She needs to be on a leash!”

“No, she’s friendly.”

I’d had enough and walked away.

I write this because I figured I’d call county animal services to see what I should have done. What if I was an elderly person or child? What are the safeguards and repercussions?

First, we were on the emergency access road, which allows for off-leash dogs “under effective voice control,” which this one was not. That is the operative concept, “We often think we know our animals, but we cannot completely. Folks need to be keeping an eye on them at all times,” the county officer told me.

“If you go to a doctor, they are required to report it to animal services. You should call us anyway because the doctors sometimes forget. Call us even if you don’t go to have it checked out. Get the owner’s name and information. If you can’t get that but can get their vehicle license, we can track them down that way sometimes.

“The dog is required to be put in quarantine for 10 days. Ninety percent of the time that is in the owner’s home, isolated from other animals or unnecessary contact with humans, as a precaution for rabies. In the 13 years I’ve been here in the county there’s never been a dog bite with rabies involved.

“The owners will be possibly issued a warning, depending on the severity of the case, of course. It will go into the record. The first time is NOT a black spot in their file, just a note. After that, if it’s reported again, they could be fined and then on from there.

“As of now, we’ll write a report of a bite for a black speckled dog on the Ranch in the afternoon of this day. If we get more calls of the same kind, we will investigate. That’s about it.”

SO, owners, please be in control. Even if you think you know your animal, you don’t know other dogs. And you don’t know everything that may or may not elicit some primal behavior. Pedestrians, even though I had not addressed this dog in any way, I should have kept my eye on it before it got that close. Do NOT approach strange animals without an owner close at hand.

We all have a right to be out there, and I continue to love dogs and critters. I just ask that you all be responsible for your animals for their sake and mine!

Dianne Brooke’s column is special to The Cambrian. Email her at ltd@ladytiedi.com, or visit her website at www.ladytiedi.com.

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